Regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, young people can always expect to be treated with respect and kindness. You can offer invaluable support to someone you’re close to, as they figure out their identity. There are many resources available to you, starting with these tips from Pascal Vaillancourt, General Director at Interligne, and Olivia Baker, Program Manager at Fondation Émergence. Desjardins is partners with both organizations.
Be an active listener
A simple way to do this is to ask questions that encourage reflection. Also find out what pronouns the person prefers to use and possibly their preferred first name so you can talk to them in a way that is consistent with their identity.
Young LGBTQ+ persons at the beginning of their journey need a sympathetic ear they can turn to. « Providing support means acting as a co-pilot, » explains Olivia Baker. « Your primary role is to help guide the driver and make the process more comfortable. »
Respect the young person’s pace and limitations
Even if you can identify with the young person’s experiences and challenges, keep in mind that every journey is different. Avoid making comparisons with your own experience. « There are as many different ways to come out as there are individuals going through the experience, » points out Pascal Vaillancourt. « It’s an identity process that reveals a significant part of who you truly are. » That’s why it’s important to respect the young person’s decisions about their preferred timing, the people they want to open up to and how they want to communicate. Adopt a positive attitude to show that times have changed.
Help set the stage
« Coming out is often the culmination of a process spanning several years. And those who witness it may need time to accept it, » asserts Olivia Baker.
If the young person agrees, you can help prepare their loved ones so that the news doesn’t come as a too much of a shock. Remind people of the importance of showing their love and respect and their belief in the young person’s journey.
Identifying other potential allies can also help facilitate the process. Olivia Baker offers an example: « You can suggest who to break the news to first, based on their perceived open-mindedness. »
Brush up on your knowledge
« What used to be LGBT has become LGBTQIA2+, and the acronym keeps growing, » points out Pascal Vaillancourt. « It’s made up of words that represent the realities we recognize today. » Find out more about the community the young person identifies with so you’ll feel more at ease in your interactions.
Provide support and resources
Encourage the person to make full use of the various resources available to them. For example:
- If the young person is in school, what professional support services (such as those from a psychologist or social worker) can they access?
- Interligne’s Gender, Identity and Sexuality Alliances (GISA) program creates welcoming and supportive spaces in schools. If the young person’s educational institution doesn’t participate in the GISA program yet, you can download a free starter kit at https://agis.interligne.co/en/kit/ to help the school set up its alliance.
- AlterHeros.com provides an accessible, non-judgmental web page where you can anonymously ask questions about sexual and gender diversity. The experts’ useful and detailed answers are posted online to make them available to a wider audience.
- More and more employers are making their workplaces more inclusive for LGBTQ+ people, thanks to the Fondation Émergence’s ProAlly training program, which is offered by Desjardins. Is there an LGBTQ+ committee that could provide support to the young person?
- Interligne’s help line is staffed by specially trained volunteers, who are available 24/7 (toll-free by phone or SMS at 1-888-505-1010). They can provide information and help with all kinds of situations. The service is for LGBTQ+ people of all ages and their loved ones.
Fondation Émergence is a non-profit organization that combats homophobia and transphobia in a number of ways. Desjardins is a partner offering the Fondation Émergence’s ProAlly program, which helps create safe and inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ+ people.
This frontline organization offers listening, counselling and awareness-building services on sexual and gender diversity. Desjardins is a major partner of Interligne’s services for young people and offers the GISA (Gender, Identity and Sexuality Alliances) program.
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